I’ve seen and reviewed thousands of resumes during my time as an HR assistant and it always amazes me how often applicants make the same mistakes over and over again. There is a science behind creating a successful resume. You could be the most amazing and talented employee but we might never get to find that out based on a less-than-stellar first impression. Before you send your resume to the next company on your list of dream employers, answer the following questions and check out the tips on how to write a successful resume below.
1. Does the top one-third of your resume give me all the information I need?
Remember that many job openings garner hundreds of responses. Part of my job is to look at all the resumes and forward the promising ones to the HR manager. This means I have to make split-second decisions. On the first pass, your entire resume isn’t going to be carefully read; I only have time to skim it. In fact, research shows that assistants like me generally spend just a few seconds looking at the top one-third of your resume. This area should make clear the star that you are. Include a summary statement at the top of your resume, followed by a list of your skills. The most successful resumes make my job easier by giving me all the relevant information as soon as I open the page.
2. Are you showing me the numbers to prove your worth?
Many applicants write unconvincing and vague bullet points like the following:
- Responsible for management duties
- Created internal database for inventory
- Increased click-through rate
- Negotiated with vendors to lower costs
This is telling me that anyone, literally anyone could have done your job. So why should I hire you? How are you going to help our company? most successful resumes quantify the accomplishments of the applicant and use numbers in the resume wherever possible, like this:
- Managed 3 employees, completed quarterly performance reviews and held weekly meetings
- Created database to track 27,000 items of inventory
- Increased click-through rate by 25% in the first 6 months
- Negotiated a $16,000 savings of 10 large purchases from vendors
Whenever you have the opportunity to show that your contributions to your company translated to real money, write the dollar amount on your resume.
3. Is your resume professional or are you trying too hard to be cute?
I’ve seen more fonts than I care to and more heart-shaped bullet points than any person should have to see. Unless you’re applying for a creative job, your resume should contain only text, numbers, and bullet points. Leave plenty of white spaces to make the reading easier. Don’t use any fancy fonts—keep it simple with Times New Roman, Calibri, Arial, or Cambria to play it safe. Each font for resume says something about you and the type of work you’re likely to bring to your company.
4. Did you proofread your resume?
After I’ve done the first pass on resumes, I’ll print out a stack of the ones I think might be the most valuable. It’s at that point that I read each resume carefully and if I see one misspelt word, one double space that should have been a single space, or an underline that went one space further than it should, I will toss the resume into the recycling bin. Bringing forth perfection is not expected every day but on the resume, it definitely is. Writing a successful resume is only the first step of the resume process; your resume needs to be proofread, read aloud, and then given to at least one other person to carefully read to ensure there aren’t little errors that will turn into landmines when they hit the HR assistant’s desk.
5. Have you removed your references and other extraneous information from your resume?
Most HR experts agree that removing your referees from your resume is a safe bet. There are many reasons to avoid listing your resumes, but most importantly, these references can be given later, after your interview. Please don’t include the line “References available upon request.” This is antiquated and is one of the phrases you should never use on your resume. It’s a sure to get your resume thrown promptly into the trash.
Writing a successful resume, one that will impress an HR gatekeeper like me, is easier than you think it is. When I’m looking through the stacks of resumes, I’m looking with a critical eye, but I’m also rooting for you. Nothing makes me sadder than having to toss an otherwise-promising resume because it doesn’t give me a reason to keep it. Give me a reason to want to pass your resume along to the hiring manager. Give me a reason to call you!